When the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) converged on Philadelphia for its 2018 annual conference, Pat Ryan, Joe Kelly, and Joe Szimhart organized a Historic Culture Tour to visit famous historic sites related to alternative social paths. They said it's "Not quite The Magical Mystery Tour" but they would take us to places "ranging from mystical to radical to dangerous."

For those who could not attend the tour, and for anyone interested in alternative Philadelphia history, we recreate the tour here. The photos come from Pat Ryan, myself, Google Maps, and one from Pat's shots are from last winter, reminding us Philadelphia gets snow! This page quotes from the itinerary Pat and the two Joes wrote for the tour, which took place July 8, 2018. Due to time lost to traffic and other forces, we could not get to everything. This webpage goes into detail on the sites we saw, and the sites we didn't see.

Join us for a look at the Cave of Kelpius,* The Move,* the Mummers Museum,* the Free Quaker Meeting House,* the Masonic Temple,* the International Peace Mission,* the "I Am" Temple,* the United Lodge of Theosophists,* and the White Dog Café.*


Photo by Pat Ryan

This is the opening to the cave. Note the marker on the right, which was installed in 1961.

Photo by Pat Ryan

There's enough room inside to stand up. The opening faces due south, possibly to allow sunlight to enter in the winter when trees are bear.

Photo by Nori Muster

Here's our group crowded around the opening to the cave. We all got a chance to step inside and imagine what it was like in 1700.

Philadelphia's Transylvanian Doomsday Cult:
The Cave of Kelpius

The Cave of Kelpius, an existing landmark, is a remnant of a small, short-lived ascetic movement established by Johannes Kelpius (1667-1708) along the Wissahickon Creek. Known locally as the "Hermits of Wissahickon" but self-proclaimed as the Society of the Woman in the Wilderness, the sect believed in the immanent end of the world in 1694. Members tended to be well-educated; Kelpius earned a master's in theology in Germany. While adopting a Pietist philosophy influenced by Jacob Boehme, some monks nevertheless sustained professions in the community. Kelpius was thought to have discovered the Philosopher's Stone as well as immortality. He died at age 41.

The marker (seen in the first photo above) reads:
Johannes Kelpius, Ph.D. A.D. 1673-1708
"The Contented of the God-loving Soul"
Magister of the first Rosicrucian AMORC colony in America which arrived in Philadelphia, June 24, 1694, then known as the Monks of the Ridge. Fra Kelpius used this cave as a shelter and as a sanctum for his meditations. Lovingly erected to his memory by Grand Lodge Rosicrucians
A.D. 1961, in cooperation with
The Supreme Grand Lodge

For more information, go to: or


Photo from Google Maps

Note the building is still boarded up because it would be too risky to renovate or demolish.

Tragic Bombing of The Move

We will drive by the MOVE site in the Cobbs Creek area at 6221 Osage Avenue where a row of buildings burned down in 1985 when law enforcement dropped an ill-advised incendiary device through the roof of the MOVE residence. MOVE is a Philadelphia-based black liberation group founded by John Africa (born Vincent Leaphart) in 1972. All members adopt Africa as a last name. The group lived in a communal setting, abiding by philosophies of anarcho-primitivism while irritating neighbors with sloganeering through a loud speaker. MOVE is not an acronym, but it stands for change. For more information, go to: or Wikipedia


Photo from Google Maps

Photo from Google Maps

Google Maps allows you to see inside the Museum.

Celebrate Tradition at the Mummers Museum

The Philadelphia Mummers Museum is located at 110 S. 2nd Street. Mummers in Philadelphia are costumed citizens celebrating the New Year with family and friends. They belong to clubs in one of 5 Divisions: The Comic, The Fancy, the Wench Brigade, the String Band, and the Fancy Brigade Divisions. As the oldest continuous folk parade in America since 1901, in Philadelphia it has developed into the grandest of Mummers traditions, the annual Mummers Parade. Ten thousand participants and hundreds of thousands of parade viewers take to the streets and sidewalks or view on television on New Year's Day. Mummery began in ancient times as a Saturnalia dedicated to the Greek myth of Momus, the personification of satire, mockery and censure. Mummer can also be connected to the late Middle English word mommer and the Old French word momeur relating to miming, masking and folk play.

For more information, go to:


Photo from Google Maps

Historic Landmark for the Quakers

A Free Quaker Meeting House was established in 1783 at 500 Arch Street, at Arch & 5th Streets near Independence Hall. In support of the American revolution, it was at odds with Quakerism or Religious Society of Friends in England launched by George Fox in 1647. A prominent Quaker, William Penn, founded Pennsylvania on a land grant in 1680. Penn saw his venture as a "holy experiment" where religious freedom was granted to all monotheists. William Penn's statue sits atop Philadelphia's City Hall. Quakers favor direct and individual communion with and from God especially during meetings where Friends wait patiently until the Spirit moves them. In some cases, this movement was somatic causing a quaking of the body, thus the nickname. Quakers were anti-slavery advocates early in their history. A more modern and larger Quaker Meeting House is now at 1515 Cherry Street in center city.

For more information, go to:


Photo by Nori Muster

Masonic Landmark

The Masonic Temple in Center City, Philadelphia was built in 1873 using Romanesque and Norman themes in architecture. It has been called one of the great wonders of the Masonic world. Coupled with the egalitarian ideas fomented by the European Enlightenment, Freemasonry had great impact on the formation of the American Constitution. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were Freemasons. However, after the Morgan Affair in 1826, public sentiment turned against the Masons causing them to turn inward. Christian movements including Catholicism viewed the Deist philosophy of Masonry as heretical, forbidding Christians to join. However, Freemasons have been known for supporting charities and democratic, capitalist ideals, thus attracting many prominent businessmen. Membership among Masonic lodges has declined considerably since the late 20th century.

Read more at:


Photo by Pat Ryan

Photos from the onsite museum and visitors center.

Photo by Nori Muster

Photo by Nori Muster

Photo by Nori Muster

Father Devine's office preserved in the museum.

Photo by Nori Muster

A room dedicated to Mother Devine.

Photo by Nori Muster

Photo by Nori Muster

The museum includes a replica of the Liberty Bell. Editor's note: this is the closest I got to my goal of hugging the Liberty Bell. It was tempting, but I didn't want an embarrassing confrontation with the curator.

Photo by Nori Muster

This is the door to the mausoleum, the final resting place of Father and Mother Devine. Our tour guide, a long-time member of the group, showed us the patriotic imagery of the artwork on the door.

Photo by Nori Muster

This is our group leaving the mausoleum.

Photo by Nori Muster

The main house as we saw it in July (above), and a beautiful shot of the grounds covered in snow (below).

Photo by Pat Ryan

History of the International Peace Mission

Reverend Major Jealous Divine or Father Divine (1877-1965) founded the International Peace Mission movement. He began preaching in the South of America around 1907 and established a communal following around 1914 in New York. Greatly influenced by 19th Century New Thought teachings, Divine held to a positive thinking message with grandiose themes that included a call for world peace and calling himself "God." A small, slight black man at 5' 2," Divine nevertheless was a powerful speaker who held a charismatic relationship with those who believed in him. Divine and his movement managed to accrue great wealth without overtly demanding money. The elegant mansion we will visit in Gladwyne became his home in 1953. The chateau and the library are testaments to Divine's incredible powers of persuasion if nothing else. Jim Jones who founded the People's Temple, famously met with Father Divine several times between 1960 to 1971 before launching his own church employing many of Divine's ideas and techniques.

A new documentary on Father Divine: Father's Kingdom.

For more information, go to: Wikipedia


Photo by Pat Ryan

Photo by Pat Ryan

I Am Activity Church

The "I Am" Activity Church, founded in the 1930s, is an offshoot of Theosophy and the roots of the Church Universal and Triumphant. I Am had a million followers in in 1938. The group is still active, including at this humble chapel at 6904 Scotforth Road in Philadelphia. To learn more, go to: Wikipedia.


Photo from Google Maps

Photo from *

United Lodge of Theosophists

United Lodge of Theosophists—Shortly after Madame Blavatsky died in 1891, the Theosophists splintered into several sects that argued over who was properly representing the channeled messages from the Great White Lodge or Brotherhood of super-human beings that secretly guide the affairs of men and nations. Theosophists, like esoteric Freemasons, have been greatly influenced by the mysterious Rosicrucian movement founded around 1614-17. The United Lodge of Theosophists was founded by Robert Crosbie in 1909 and established in Philadelphia in 1925. The ULT moved to its current location at 1917 Walnut Street in 1945. For more information, go to: or


Photo from Google Maps

A New Age Meeting Place

The White Dog Café, 3240 Sansom Street near the Universities of Drexel and Pennsylvania, was a residence and meeting place of the Miracle Club of early Theosophists in 1875. For some personal history with this café, read Joe Szimhart's blog where he describes the miracle healing of Madame Blavatsky's gangrenous leg in 1875. The legend states that a small white dog appeared at her residence, laid on her leg, and her leg healed. Early Theosophists met with Blavatsky here to form the "Miracle Club" that was renamed as The Theosophical Society. For information about the restaurant, go to:

For more information about our tour guides, Joseph Kelly and Patrick Ryan, go to For for Joe Szimhart go to To find the nitty gritty on cults at this site, go to